The Bottom Line
- Very thorough treatment of topic
- Based on more than one hundred interviews
- Thoroughly indexed and annotated
- Well-written and readable
- Authors have some biases
- Written by a brother and sister team
- Sharon Graham Niederhaus recently completed a master's thesis in multigenerational living at Stanford
- John L. Graham is a marketing and business professor at the University of California, Irvine
- Published by M. Evans, an imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
- 299 pages
- List price $16.95
Guide Review - Together Again: A Creative Guide to Multigenerational Living
This book is a rich resource for anyone who is considering multigenerational living. If you are not considering it, read this book, and you are likely to start thinking about it. Multigenerational living makes sense for at least three reasons: it can simplify elder care, it can help with child care and it can cut housing costs. The authors of the book plainly believe that there are other, less-quantifiable benefits, but they make a good case for families living together even if the issue of family closeness is ignored.
Many Americans do not realize that single-family dwellings are a relatively new phenomenon in the Western world. The Industrial Revolution drove workers to move away from their kinship groupings to find jobs. Prior to that time, families naturally lived in multigenerational settings. The single-family housing model may have worked well for some in the intervening years, but there are forces at work today that make multigenerational living a practical and natural choice once again. Americans are living longer, usually in a state of health that doesn't require nursing home care. Younger two-career families struggle with finding and paying for good child care. And the recent recession has left many families floundering financially.
Multigenerational living can be a solution to all of these problems. But typical American homes are uniquely unsuitable for occupation by more than one family and may be especially unsuitable for the elderly. They are, as the authors say, "Peter Pan housing--built as if no one ever ages."
All is not lost, however. Existing housing can be altered to accommodate more than one generation. Accessory apartments--or "granny flats"--can be added, either free-standing or attached to the home. Families that don't mind moving can consider duplexes, townhomes, family compounds and a host of other options.
This book provides guidance for all the sticky issues of living together, including the following:
- Making a home accessible for seniors
- Dealing with housing laws and deed restrictions
- Deciding ownership and inheritance issues
- Handling the cultural stigma
- Making agreements--formal or informal--about living together
The even-handed treatment of the issues slips only in a couple of places. The authors have a bias again nursing homes--admittedly shared by legions of people--stating that "even the best nursing home is a bad place to be." They also suggest that families with aging parents (grandparents) should begin talking about making different living arrangements when the seniors reach age 70. The burgeoning Aging in Place movement suggests that many seniors are able, with proper support, to stay in their own homes for decades past 70.
As the authors point out, the bottom line is that families need to like each other to live together. Family members may love each other, but it's best not to try living together unless the mix also includes a healthy helping of like.